After twenty-nine years, I've decided New Year's as a concept doesn't work for me. It took that long because I'm a slow learner and also because I enjoy other opportunities for fresh starts. New month? Here's my to-do list. New week? Bring on the Monday! New day? I'm the morning person everybody hates. I'm not sure whether my love affair with this kind of newness stems from being mentally ill in a way that means the old day/week/month likely sucked or whether that experience is typical to everyone who's ever wanted a do-over.
A whole new year, though? That's way too much pressure.
Every New Year's Day, I fall prey to the urge to make sweeping plans and poorly delineated resolutions; basically, to cast my net of goals so wide the whole thing disintegrates. The best I've done so far is my tentative, it's-no-big-deal-if-you-screw-up hope to review all the books I read in 2019. Because I know hard and fast objectives are dangerous for me, I managed to trick myself into thinking there was no pressure to stick to my goal, so I succeeded! I'm hoping to try the 'soft goal' idea again in 2020 to (hopefully) bamboozle my brain into getting back into some of my creative pursuits.
But it turns out that as much as I hate New Year's on a personal level, I love it as a societal concept. Nothing makes me happier than watching people I care for and admire choose to take better care of themselves, their relationships, and their communities. Writing can be a lonely pastime that rewards isolation and a certain brand of self-destructive habit, but as each new year begins, I've watched more bloggers, authors, and members of the publishing community make inspiring, healthy changes.
That brings me to something I spent the end of 2019 considering as I looked back at the books I'd read. Change.
Change on a grand scale can be frustratingly slow in the book community, never more than when the world itself is so hostile for so many people. While grim realities like racism, homophobia, and misogyny have always been present in publishing, their continued prevalence highlights both the ways in which books have broken ground in recent years and the areas where the book community is failing its members—particularly those who are minorities—even more strongly than other forms of media.
On one hand, 2019 brought us debacles like J.K. Rowling proving her true colors (again) via an act of transphobia and a variety of lesser-known authors (and, by extension, their agents and publishers) writing outside their lanes in harmful ways. It was another year in which children's books had more animal characters than non-white ones. It was a year in which some members of the book community made social media hostile for minority authors.
On the other hand, 2019 was also the year I read almost seventy books with queer characters and more than that many with main or major characters of color—meaning those kinds of books are becoming more widely available. Most of those books were written by women. More than half of them had wlw relationships and there were dozens of other sapphic new releases I didn't read. So we're making progress, even if it's often frustratingly little and painfully slow. In 2019, I stopped settling for books that represented me poorly just because I didn't have other options. There's enough variety that I don't have to resort to books by authors who fetishize or misrepresent minorities just to find stories about those minorities. To paraphrase someone on book Twitter (if anyone remembers who said it or the exact quote, please let me know!), representation doesn't count if the character in question is dead, evil, or a stereotype.
One of my goals for 2020 is to limit my reading to fifty books, but I've had a hard time keeping the number low when there are so many diverse, exciting-sounding novels hitting shelves this year. I hope the new year will continue the trend of positive changes among readers, book bloggers, authors, and publishers. This is 2020; no one's going to be satisfied with a lone Black character who dies in the first hundred pages of a book or a blink-and-you'll-miss-it same-sex kiss.